what to do if credit report says you are deceased

What To Do If Credit Report Says You Are Deceased

Being mistakenly listed as deceased on your credit report is a serious issue that can have far-reaching consequences. This error can prevent you from obtaining loans, credit cards, or even renewing a driver’s license. It can also cause significant inconvenience and frustration as you navigate the process of correcting this inaccuracy.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to fight back against a “deceased” indicator on your credit report. This error can have serious consequences, but we’ll guide you through the steps to fix it and explore your legal options for compensation.

Why You Might Be Listed as Deceased on Your Credit Report

Here are the possible reasons why you might be listed as deceased on your credit report:

1.    Social Security Administration (SSA) Error

The SSA maintains a database called the Death Master File, which contains records of deceased individuals. If you are erroneously included in this file, credit bureaus may mark you as deceased on your credit report.

2.    Creditor Mistake

Creditors may inadvertently report a joint account holder, co-signer, or someone associated with the account as deceased instead of the actual deceased person. This error can result in your entire account being flagged as inactive, leading to an incorrect deceased status on your credit report.

How to Fix It?

The process of correcting the error may vary depending on whether the mistake originated from a creditor or the Social Security Administration (SSA).

1.    Creditor Mistake

Credit bureaus sometimes incorrectly list living people as deceased on their credit reports due to administrative errors or identity mix-ups. If it is a creditor mistake, there are two possible scenarios:

Option 1: Contact the credit bureau directly

  • Submit a notarized letter with your identifying information, including your full name, current mailing address, Social Security number, date of birth, and a statement confirming you are alive.
  • You can upload the document online or mail it to Experian’s address.
  • Experian will update your report and notify the creditor responsible for the error.

Option 2: Contact the creditor directly

  • Inform them of the inaccuracy on your credit report.
  • Request they update their records and notify the credit bureaus.
  • This approach might be faster for isolated incidents involving a single creditor.

Social Security Administration Mistake (SSA) error (common for Experian)

If the error is caused by the Social Security Administration (SSA):

  • Contact Your Local Social Security Office. Explain the discrepancy and request them to correct their records, as the SSA maintains a Death Master File that credit bureaus reference.
  • Obtain a Letter from the SSA. This letter should confirm that they have corrected their records and removed you from the Death Master File.
  • Submit the Letter and Proof of Identity/Address (Copies) to Experian. Acceptable documents include a driver’s license, state ID, utility bill, or bank statement.
  • Experian will remove the deceased indicator upon verification of the SSA’s correction.

Legal Solution for a “Deceased” Credit Report (Mistakenly)

Fortunately, there are legal ways available to address this error and seek appropriate solutions.

1.    Dispute the Error with Credit Bureaus (Fair Credit Reporting Act – FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that protects consumers against inaccurate or incomplete information in their credit reports. Under the FCRA, you have the right to dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report. You can file a dispute online or by mail with each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) that has listed you as deceased.

2.    Contact a Credit Report Attorney

Consulting with an attorney who specializes in credit report errors can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the dispute process. A credit report attorney can:

  • Help you navigate the FCRA dispute process with the Social Security Administration (SSA), credit bureaus, and data providers.
  • Craft compelling legal arguments to support your case and ensure that the credit bureaus and data providers comply with their obligations under the FCRA.
  • Negotiate with the credit bureaus and data providers on your behalf, increasing the likelihood of a successful resolution.

3.    Seek Compensation (FCRA)

The FCRA allows you to seek compensation for actual damages resulting from the erroneous deceased indicator on your credit report. These damages may include:

  • Denied loans or credit cards due to the inaccurate information.
  • Higher interest rates or unfavorable terms due to the error.
  • Difficulty obtaining housing or employment due to the deceased status.

4.    Punitive Damages

In certain cases, you may be eligible to seek punitive damages if the error resulted from:

  • Repeated problems – If the credit bureau or data provider has a history of failing to investigate disputes properly or repeatedly violating the FCRA.
  • Negligence – If the credit bureau or data provider acted with reckless disregard for the accuracy of your credit report.

Punitive damages are intended to deter future violations and hold the offending party accountable for their actions.

Common Scenarios of Being Mistakenly Listed as Deceased

Here are two very common scenarios where someone could be mistakenly listed as deceased on their credit report. [source]

Scenario 1: Individual Account Marked Deceased

  • Cause -A creditor might mistakenly report a joint account or an account associated with someone who passed away (e.g., spouse, co-signer).
  • Solution – The solution is to submit a detailed notarized statement to the credit bureau clarifying you are alive, allowing them to update the account trade line.

Scenario 2: Entire Credit Report Marked Deceased

  • Cause – Often stems from an error at the Social Security Administration incorrectly listing the person as deceased. The Social Security Administration (SSA) might have mistakenly listed your Social Security number as deceased.
  • Solution – Requires getting documentation from the SSA confirming the records were corrected, and providing that plus ID/proof of address to the credit bureau.

Contact Information for All Three Credit Bureaus

If you’ve discovered a “deceased” indicator on your credit report, here’s the contact information you need for all three credit bureaus to get it fixed:

Credit BureauPhone NumberWebsiteMailing Address
Equifax(866) 349-5191www.equifax.comP.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Experian(888) 397-3742www.experian.comP.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion(800) 916-8800www.transunion.comP.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
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